ICT industry leaders gathered at the eStrategies summit in Cape Town on 27 November 2014 to discuss strategies aimed at realising a more connected government.

The discussion focused on dialogue with key stakeholders led by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) who outlined the progress made in eGovernment and shared a more detailed roadmap for future developments.

A firm emphasis was placed on economies of scale and the cost advantages of scaling up of eGovernment initiatives. “There’s a correlation between economic growth and the use of ICT,” said CEO of SITA and Chairman of the roundtable, Freeman Nomvalo.

Some of the overall challenges still facing SA are the fast changing nature of the ICT industry, keeping up with the changes, affordability and the persistent high cost of telecoms and broadband and inefficiencies in service delivery. It was stressed that infrastructure that enables ICT is critical with mention of the necessity of fibre optic cable installation and regulation thereof.

Networks and Media Competency Area Manager from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Ntsibane Ntlatlapa, responded to the regulations of infrastructure explaining that it needs to be open to all players at the same cost. “A non-discriminatory fibre policy and PPP’s should be built together and shared together,” said Ntlatlapa.

The consensus was that spectrum provided by the International Telecommunications Union needs to add value with the help of the competition commission and regulation. “ICASA is doing their best to honour their universal services agreement. We are getting a lot out of them, but they can always do better,” said the Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize.

Touching on the role of Chief Information Officers (CIO’s), the Head of IT at the Free State Department of Health, Mbuyiselo Goduka, said: “CIO’s should graduate from technical issues and begin to focus on the management of technology. If you remain tech focussed your priority will be on bits and bytes and never on the bottom line which is why IT exists: to enable people, social communication, business and profit.”

According to SITA CTO, Mr Pandelani Munyai, SITA is currently developing a technology platform that will be used to host eHealth, eLearning and eJustice applications to be released early next year. The platform aims to empower SMME’s with limited start-up capital to host and develop their own applications in eHealth, eLearning and eJustice. Munyai indicated that the platform should be available early next year.

Mkhize, raised the issue of the prevalent digital divide and the work that the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) was doing to bridge that gap. The Deputy Minister said in jest that she wished more people would protest for broadband and stated that operators don’t prioritise communities. “Unequal access to services causes frustration. We should be able to connect all communities by 2020 although some struggles to deliver will exist beyond that end point,” said Mkhize.

Roundtable Rapporteur and SITA executive, Charmaine Houvet, concluded with the following take home messages: Government must lead change process and be the backbone of ICT strategies and policy, collaboration between the public and private sector is imperative for growth and whatever SITA develops, it needs to impact citizens positively.

The DTPS Deputy Minister called for summit attendees to lodge suggestions to the recently released ICT Policy Review Paper. She reiterated the necessity of high-level debate with the public sector on eGovernment to stimulate innovative ways to work together with the private sector.

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